Life as a student

Student life…

For a while now, I’ve been working with Transition Year pupils at Loreto Community School, Milford as part of the National Architects in Schools Initiative, a programme admirably promoted by the Irish Architecture Foundation to give second level students a taste of what it’s like to work as an architect.

The programme is drawing to an end soon, with an exhibition of student work planned for the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny on 17th April. The students are going to present their work to assorted guests, teachers and fellow pupils, so it’s a lot like life as a third- level architecture student where there are deadlines, presentations and the dreaded crit seemingly every other week.

A critique, or crit in short, is the focal point of work in the architecture studio, and it’s where students pin their project work up for discussion with tutors and fellow students. ‘Discussion’ is a loose term, as it’s more a mixture of parental advice and firing squad, in my memory mostly firing squad with the parental advice coming afterwards, if at all.

But back to the point. Several of the Loreto students have shown an interest in going on to study architecture at third level, and I’ve been asked quite a few times which Leaving Cert subjects would help most. In my day the best subjects to pick were Art and Physics and I’m sure that hasn’t changed much. In my wisdom I hadn’t studied either of them for the Leaving Cert, hence the firing squads but it’s not impossible to get through without those subjects.

For anybody thinking about studying architecture, it’s a long haul (5 years plus a year out in the middle, with another couple of years of work experience and exams afterwards before qualification as an architect) so it does require a pretty fierce commitment. Every architectural student knows about ‘all nighters’ where a looming project deadline means no sleep for a couple of nights and days. I look back with nostalgia on the hallucinations, dinners being cooked at 6 in the evening and again at 4 in the morning, slicing fingers (my own, mostly) with Stanley knives while making models and the sheer, unrelenting pressure for months on end. Still, I wouldn’t change it for anything because it was really satisfying and, to borrow Bono’s phrase, it changed the shape of my head. Perhaps it’s better if I let Transition Year students discover all that for themselves, though.

This short film by Arbuckle Industries is scarily close to my own experience in college, and I think it’s great viewing for any second- level student wondering what life as an architecture student is really like.